A Lean-driven program from the University of California – San Diego has won a CIO 100 Award for providing an example of how IT leadership, business partnerships and customer engagement shape the future.

The CIO 100 awards recognize 100 organizations from around the world that drive IT innovation. The awards are given each year at the CIO 100 Symposium and Awards Ceremony. Other award winners included Jet Propulsion Labs, Kaiser Permanente, Nestlé, Samsung and Verizon.

UC San Diego won the award by creating a cultural transformation that emphasizes process improvement, a change that started in the school’s IT services department. They did so by offering Lean Six Sigma training to employees, creating a program called Lean Bench to put that training into action, and founding an annual Lean-driven conference called Process Palooza.

The UC San Diego program is one of many examples where universities have put Six Sigma and continuous process improvement into play either in school operations or by working in partnership with local businesses.

The Lean Bench Program

The award-winning process started in 2016 with the school’s IT Services department, which  committed to providing Lean Six Sigma training to every staff member. Once those in other university departments saw the impact of earning a Lean Six Sigma belt, they started getting their employees trained as well.

UC San Diego Chief Information Officer Vince Kellen said in a news release that incorporation of Lean Six Sigma training has been “truly a bottom-up movement. We went from 400 Lean Six Sigma-trained staff in IT Services to over 3,200 campus wide. People quickly realized how useful this training is in their job environment and they want to be part of it.”

This led to creation of the Lean Bench Program. Members of the Lean Bench are expert Lean Six Sigma practitioners who lead efforts at the university in process improvement, operational excellence and business efficiency.

Before entering the Lean Bench program, each person commits to spending 20% of their work time over a 12-month period on Lean-based reviews of campus business operations. They complete multiple such reviews during this time.

By the time they leave the Lean Bench program, they have gained hands-on experience in applying Lean tools and techniques to real-world issues. They are better prepared to do the same in their own departments.

The Process Palooza Conference

A third element that led to winning the CIO 100 Award came in the form of an annual conference called Process Palooza. The conference draws more than 800 people from universities and businesses. The intention is to collaborate on ideas that create operational efficiency, business excellence and foster continuous improvement.

A staple of the conference is the Great LSS Race. During this event, teams compete by bringing what they have learned in Lean Six Sigma training to bear on issues that impact the campus.  The event not only gives people a chance to put Lean Six Sigma into practice, but also provides the school with an external perspective on how to address their operational challenges.

Commenting in the news release about the positive impact of process improvement on the school, UC San Diego Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth H. Simmons said, “The core of this effort is Lean Six Sigma. It gives measurable results, provides people with a common set of practices, and it offers a core vocabulary that they can use to approach things collectively and communicate with one another well.”